Hello, my name is Chris Coughlin. My wife Trisha and I live in Westford. We have been married almost 30yrs and have been blessed with five wonderful children and now one son-in-law. Today I have the privilege of sharing my Faith story with you.
I’d like to begin by saying, that God is truly in the business of changing lives and I stand before you as one whose life has been radically changed by Jesus! Paul said, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” II Cor. 5:17
I grew up on Long Island during the 60’s and 70’s in a church-going Catholic family. I attended parochial school through the 8th grade and was exposed to God and the Bible at both Church and at school. But I did not know God, I only knew about God.
During those years if you had asked me if I was a Christian, I would have said, “Yes, of course I am. I believe there is a God and I go to church”. I would have also agreed that Jesus was the Son of God. But my belief was much more of an historical belief rather than a faith or trust in God.
I believed that Jesus lived and was God’s son in much the same way I believed that Abraham Lincoln lived and was our 16th President – both were historical figures that lived a long time ago who had little or nothing to do with me personally.
During my teen years I made a lot of bad choices. From age 13 to 21, partying, rebellion and rabble-rousing characterized my life. While it is true that these years were very dark (I sometimes refer to them as my ‘Philistine’ years), it is also true that unbeknownst to me, God was working in the lives of people I loved very much who would one day share the love of Christ with me when I was most unlovable.
You see, my sister was the 1st of my siblings to become a Christian – a true follower of Christ. Believing that she was a bit of a ‘goody-two-shoes’, her sudden interest in Jesus did not come as a big surprise to me. But when she and her husband (a new Christian himself) offered me a job for the summer, I was not too enthusiastic about the offer. My brother-in-law is a contractor and working for him meant I would also be living with them 24/7 as they lived in CT and my home was on LI. Even though my sister and I were quite close, I thought this Christianity stuff was OK for them, but I wanted nothing to do with it myself. However, this was the summer between my junior and senior year of college, and I needed a job, so I accepted their offer.
Five days a week I was a captive audience for my brother-in-law as we drove ~45mins each morning to our job site. He would ask me questions like, “Chris, do you know what the Gospel is?” or “Chris, if you met Saint Peter at the pearly gates, what would you tell him so that he would let in?” To me the Gospel was part of the Mass, and, well I figured that I had messed up so badly already, that God was never going to let me into heaven, and there was nothing I could do to change that.
Throughout that summer, my sister, her husband and their church family continued to love me in a way that I had never experienced before – a genuine, unconditional love. While what they had in their fellowship was foreign to me, it was nonetheless very attractive. Despite this, from time to time, when someone would ask if I had considered making a decision to follow Jesus, I would always avoid the question and change the subject. Although God was beginning to soften my heart, and I was for the 1st time questioning my life choices, I could not in good conscience answer ‘yes’ to that question.
That same summer, my sister and brother-in-law were in a home Bible study with another young couple. Together they were studying the book of Romans. Since I was living in my sister’s home I thought it would be ‘polite’ if I participated in the Bible study. To that point I had only known Paul as the ‘Apostle’ Paul. I knew nothing of Saul of Tarsus who once persecuted Christians for their faith. But during the study I learned that Paul was once an enemy of Jesus whose life was radically changed after meeting Jesus! I thought if God could forgive Paul, then perhaps he could forgive me as well!
So while I still had doubts of what the future would bring, by the end of that summer I asked Christ to forgive me, to accept me as his child and to save me from my sins. As I headed back to college that fall, I clung to these two verses from Proverbs:
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight” 3:5,6
Finally when I returned to campus, God lead me to a Christian fellowship where I learned another Bible passage from the book of Joshua, which I treasured as a new Christian on a secular campus:
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” 1:9
If anyone is interested in hearing more about becoming a follower of Jesus, I would be glad to meet with you after the service. Thank you.